Jamie Howell takes his Eastbourne Borough squad to Bath tomorrow (Saturday, 3pm), needing urgently to reverse a recent trend of away defeats.
Howell has the task of stemming the leaks that have appeared in his defence in the last two away fixtures. A 3-1 reverse at Chelmsford was followed on Tuesday night by a 3-0 surrender at Concord Rangers – Borough’s heaviest defeat of the season, and the first time they have failed to score since the opening day, a 0-0 at Oxford City.
Howell said, “Quite apart from the journey, Bath is never the easiest place to go. You get an open game on a big sloping pitch, and it isn’t usually the place for a 0-0.
“We nicked all three points down there last season, with a 1-0 through Yemi. I’d settle for that. Bath have goalscorers, including the likes of Ross Stearn and Ryan Brunt – fourteen goals between them – but they have shipped a few goals too. They are only a couple of points above us and we can match them.”
“We’ve had some superb performances on the road, at Weston and Gloucester. Maybe it’s something about Essex: get north of the Thames and we’re on foreign soil! Too many hold-up at the Dartford Tunnel and you lose the will to live, never mind play well.”
At both Chelmsford and Concord, there were signs of Borough players coming off physically second-best. “It’s an old saying, but very often you have to earn the right to play.
“We have some smashing footballers, but we must be better without the ball. “Discipline and organisation win football matches. We are young, especially at the back, and it showed on Tuesday night.”
Jamie has been hampered in recent weeks by long-term injuries. Marvin Hamilton still has his ankle in a support boot, David Martin might need a minor operation on his knee and Lloyd Dawes is only slowly recovering from his pulled hamstring.
“It’s been frustrating. What it means is that I have limited options and flexibility.
“We have a terrific team spirit and the players will go out and sweat blood. But I’d like to able to change things around a little and keep players fresh.”
The Sports manager is actively looking to strengthen the squad, and Stacey Freeman, signed on dual registration from Lewes, played dependably at centre-back on Tuesday.
There might be other new faces, but either way Howell is upbeat. “We’ve come a long way already this season. The league table is irrelevant – apart from a tail of three or four clubs, the division is really just one big cluster.
“We are as good as anyone, and we plan to prove it.”
After Bath City, Borough have a blank midweek ahead of the FA Trophy tie at home to Dartford on Saturday week.